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Full text of "My Country And My People"

52       MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

like Tolstoy, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir James Barrie,
who have in them so much native childishness, which, combined
with experience of fact, gives them that capacity for eternal
youth which we call immortality.

All this is, however, pure Taoism, in theory and practice, for
there is no profounder collection of a concentrated roguish
philosophy of life than that contained in the five thousand
words of Laotse's Taotehking. Taoism, in theory and practice,
means a certain roguish nonchalance, a confounded and
devastating scepticism, a mocking laughter at the futility of all
human interference and the failure of all human institutions,
laws, government and marriage, and a certain disbelief in
idealism, not so much because of lack of energy as because of
a lack of faith. It is a philosophy which counteracts the
positivism of Confucius, and serves as a safety-valve for
the imperfections of a Confucian society. For the Confucian
outlook on life is positive, while the Taoistic outlook is negative,
and out of the alchemy of these two strange elements emerges
the immortal thing we call Chinese character.1

Hence a]! Chinese are Confucianists when successful, and
Taoists when they are failures. The Confucianist in us builds
and strives, while the Taoist in us watches and smiles. There-
fore when a Chinese scholar is in office he moralizes, and when
he is out of office he versifies, and usually it is good Taoistic
poetry. That explains why almost all Chinese scholars write
poetry, and why in almost all collected works of Chinese writers,
poetry occupies the better and greater half.

For Taoism, like morphia, is strangely benumbing and
therefore strangely soothing. It relieves Chinese headaches
and heartaches. Its romanticism, its poetry and its worship
of nature serve the Chinese as handsomely in times of trouble
and disorder as Confucianism serves them in times of peace
aad national integration. In that way it provides a safe retreat
for the Chinese human heart and a balm for the Chinese soul,
when the flesh is submitted to trials and tribulations. The
poetry of Taoism alone has made the rigoristic life on the
Confucian pattern endurable, and its romanticism has saved

1 So fax as this negative attitude toward life is concerned, Buddhism is
merely Taoism a little touched in its -wits.